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20 Affordable Ideas to Give Your Event the Wow Factor

By Christina Green
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Money doesn’t make the impression, creativity does. There’s no better inspiration for creativity in an event than a client on a limited budget. Wow your attendees (and your client) with these inexpensive event ideas.

If you’ve been challenged to create an amazing event on a not-so-amazing budget, there are lots of ways to cut costs. However, looking like you cut costs, even if it was at the client’s insistence, is not a way to build your clientele. You want to delight attendees without them realizing the cost savings with which you provided your client. You can provide a memorable experience for less than you thought with these money-saving options.

  1. Candlelight

20-Affordable-Ideas-to-Give-Your-Event-the-Wow-Factor-candlelight

You can achieve amazing ambiance for an event using (just) candles. Place them in hurricane glasses or on a dessert plate surrounded by sea glass. Hang them from trees in wine bottles or old-fashioned glass fishing floats. Place them in mason/jam jars half-filled with sand. The look is classic, romantic and ethereal.  If a live flame concerns you, you can create the same effect using flameless candle lights.

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  1. Use a Venue with its Own Scenery

Vineyards, botanical gardens, even ships can provide beautiful backdrops that allow you to skimp on decorations.

20-Affordable-Ideas-to-Give-Your-Event-the-Wow-Factor---scenary

  1. Social Invites

If you’re working with a tech-savvy crowd, ditch traditional invites and invite everyone through social media and email. You’ll save on postage and printing costs and you’d be amazed at the design you can create online, setting the tone for the entire experience.

Salesforce uses videos to get people excited about their event, Dreamforce. While they spend a lot of money, you can capture customer past attendee commentary easily and cheaply if you do it in-house.

  1. Surprise with the Unexpected

Do something that surprises your guests like bringing a food truck into the middle of the event. Surprise is memorable and can be done for less than you think.

  1. Reuse

If your client wants a theme, ask what they’ve done in the past and whether they have any of the decorations left over. You can often reuse items but with a slightly new twist. For instance, casino night can be easily repurposed as an evening at a Speak Easy.

  1. Use In-Season, Local Flowers

While it can be a bit dicey from a selection standpoint, choosing in-season, local flowers from farmers’ markets will save you a lot and who can beat the feeling of helping a local merchant?

20-Affordable-Ideas-to-Give-Your-Event-the-Wow-Factor---floral

  1. Reduce the Food, Increase the Quality

Food and beverages are one of the major expenses in an event. They’re also the most at stake when it comes to cutting budgets. You can cut expense by offering “meeting” chicken but you certainly won’t wow anyone. Instead, consider smaller foods like appetizers or tapas of higher quality. Look for farm fresh and locally sourced, or inventive pairings to make an impression.

20-Affordable-Ideas-to-Give-Your-Event-the-Wow-Factor---quality-food

  1. Get Sponsors

This won’t work for a wedding, but sponsors are possible at most corporate and non-profit events. If there’s a big ticket item you just can’t do without, think about people who want to do business with your attendees (but who won’t take business away from the client). For instance, a software company hosting a user’s group for association professionals turned to the local CVB and large hotels that handle conventions in the area for food and beverage sponsorships, as well as AV needs.

  1. Make Your Own Photo Booth

Photo booth rentals are pricey. Buying one can be even more so. However, you can achieve the same whimsical fun with a couple of cheap props from a second-hand store and someone with a digital camera and some organization.

  1. Meet Pinterest, Your New Best Friend

Pinterest can tell you how to make pretty much anything on a budget. If you’re throwing a low-cost event, make it your new best friend.

  1. Use Tech and CrowdSourcing

Ditch the professional photographer and create a hashtag for your event. Invite people to take pictures and use the hashtag. Then use a content aggregator like RebelMouse to create pages for what people are saying about your event and share the pictures they are taking on a large screen where everyone can enjoy it and comment on it.

  1. Make an Entry

At the Kate Spade/Crane & Co. launch, they decorated the front entry with tiny envelopes and invited guests to “Take a Chance” and pick one. You could place almost anything in these little envelopes and the whimsy behind it is sure to be remembered. Another unique idea is having the guest list posted on the entry wall with plenty of space in front of each name, then inviting guests to leave their lip print. This is a fun addition for an event like a fashion show.

  1. Select One Color

A mono-chromatic theme can be enchanting and very easy to accomplish. The color can even apply to the food or attire of the guests. If your event surrounds a guest of honor, a dash of color (outside of the single color chosen for the rest of the event) celebrating that person attracts attention to the VIP.

  1. Repurpose

20-Affordable-Ideas-to-Give-Your-Event-the-Wow-Factor---Repurpose

Use items in ways that are surprising. For instance, hanging umbrellas with tiny white lights from trees can create an unforgettable outdoor venue. Think creatively and people will remember your efforts.

  1. Ditch the Uniform

Don’t worry about outfitting event staff in a single uniform. Select a color and an accessory that will help them stand out in the crowd. For instance, a black top and bottom with a hot pink scarf is a lot more budget-friendly than buying a uniform.

  1. Use Natural Materials

20-Affordable-Ideas-to-Give-Your-Event-the-Wow-Factor---natural-materials

Burlap, jute, and woven sea grass are all inexpensive and add depth to table decor. Sprinkle some flower petals, sea glass or sea shells with a candle in the center and you have an inexpensive table centerpiece.

  1. Use Your Glasses

Cut off 2-3 flowers, trap them under an overturned wine glass and add a small round candle to the upturned bottom of the glass. Instant romantic centerpiece.

  1. Remember the Aroma

Smells are some of our most long-held memories so using them at your event is a big way to make an impression. Fill a jelly jar mid-way with lavender or rosemary and place a small votive candle in it. Use these as a rustic centerpiece or to light the way down a romantic walkway.

  1. Tie it Up

Bundle your silverware packets with bow ties. It creates a striking presentation and prepares the guests for the exciting meal ahead.

  1. Make Your Own Bunting

20-Affordable-Ideas-to-Give-Your-Event-the-Wow-Factor---bunting

Bunting is festive and eye-catching. You can also make bunting very easily.

In Conclusion

A great event needn’t be expensive. You just need to look for opportunities to make an impression. Lighting, food, and décor are good places to start. What’s your favorite economical touch that makes a statement?

Photo Credits: Some photos provided by Becki Cross and Events Northern Ltd.

about the author

Christina Green
Christina R. Green is a digital storyteller and writer for associations and businesses, including journals such as the Midwestern Society of Association Executive's magazine and industry blogs. She's a voracious reader but has been known to stop reading if there are too many exclamation points used.
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